In the sunshine, we can easily tend to strip off and expose our skin to ultraviolet rays. However, skin cancer rates are on the rise. In order to protect your skin and that of your family’s, here are a few pieces of advice to follow now and in the future.
1. Good habits to adopt during sun exposure
Watch what times you are out in the sun
Avoid sun exposure between 12 and 4pm, as this is when the intensity of the sun’s rays is at its maximum. Outside of this peak, you also need to stay vigilant. In fact, frequent doses of low intensity sunshine are as dangerous as a short exposure to intense sunlight.
Handy tip: When your shadow on the ground is shorter than yourself, you need to find some shade! This is a great guideline that applies to adults and children alike.
Don’t fall into a false sense of security
Even if the sky is overcast, cloudy or misty, never forget that the sun’s rays can get through. Exposure during such weather is therefore just as risky.
Avoid artificial UV lights like the plague
Tanning beds are just as harmful as the sun’s rays. The absence of the heat typically produced by the sun can lead you into error. However, artificial UV rays accelerate skin ageing, they don’t prepare the skin for the sun and they don’t protect you in any way from the effects of UV rays.
Remember to take many breaks in the shade
If you stay exposed in the outdoors all day long, remember to take breaks in the shade, underneath a parasol, inside a building, or under a tree. And don’t hesitate to put on a t-shirt and trousers if you notice your skin heating up.
Wear a hat or a cap
To avoid heatstroke and sunburn on your scalp, it is essential that you cover your head.
Wear sun glasses
Your eyes are also exposed to the harmful effects of the sun. Choose ones with a UV filter, that have a CE mark, and that are category 3 or 4. This is generally marked on the inside of one of the legs of the glasses.
2. Sunscreen can help effectively prevent against skin cancer
For daily protection against UV Rays, it is important to choose your sunscreen wisely, and in accordance with your skin type. People with phototype I, II or III (fair hair and skin, who do not tan easily) are more sensitive than others, and should therefore wear a sunscreen with SPF 50. Other people also need to protect themselves, even if they have very dark skin. A tan is effectively a natural barrier for the sun, but it doesn’t filter UV rays and thus doesn’t prevent skin cancer.
Whatever your skin type, avoid using SPFs less than 20. And remember to reapply your cream every two hours, and after every time you go swimming, after having dried off your skin.
3. Protect your children’s skin
Children’s skin is finer, and therefore needs more protection. Sunburn in childhood can often be what leads to melanoma in adulthood.
Children under 3 should have as little exposure to UV rays as possible. Every time you go out, your children should be wearing a hat or a cap, sunglasses and a lycra or anti-UV t-shirt.
The easiest thing without a doubt is to get your children used to protecting themselves from the sun from a very young age. In this way, they will take it on as an automatic habit, the same as putting on their seat belts in the car, or not crossing the road without looking left and right. Sun protection is obligatory, as it is to do with their safety. Even in the shade, apply a water-resistant sunscreen every two hours.
4. Consult a dermatologist
Regular visits to a dermatologist mean that you can monitor any moles or beauty spots, and the dermatologist will meticulously examine your skin for any lesions. Such an examination is recommended once a year for people who have many moles (over 40), very pale skin, freckles, a family history of skin cancer and/or who got frequently sunburned as children.
5. Self-monitor your skin
Between each visit to the dermatologist, monitor your moles yourself. Examine them carefully one by one, including any that may be in your scalp. In order to facilitate this self-check, follow the ABCDE guide, which can help you detect anomalies:
- Border (irregular)
- Colour (multi-coloured -dark brown, light brown, pink, etc)
- Diameter of more than 5 mm
- Evolution (changes rapidly)
The presence of one or several of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a melanoma, but it warrants a visit to a dermatologist.
Be equally vigilant if you notice a cut or wound that doesn’t heal, a spot or a scab that isn’t going away, as this could be a sign of a carcinoma.